Aspergers - Discussion about Imagination

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03 Jul 2020, 9:14 pm

I wasn't diagnosed with Aspergers until I was sixteen, three years ago (well technically autism because they took it out of the DSM, but I am a strong advocate for its revival since they are VERY different though present similarly).
Basically all the questionnaires and formal diagnostic criteria for both disorders describe a severe impairment to the brain's imagination. For example, not engaging in pretend play as a child, not understanding and/or enjoying fiction, unable to makeup images in your mind, etc. I personally find this absolutely untrue for me. If anything, I have an extremely overactive imagination and spend more time inside it than not. I am also a writer and constantly think up new circumstances and characters and have done so since I was a child.
I often find the descriptions of aspergers and autism offensive because of the way they're worded, but I can usually decode the text to understand what it actually means even though they didn't descirbe it well (i.e. lack of empathy, we have empathy it just works differently). However I find the whole imagination part just completely off and I don't understand where it's coming from. Everyone I've met who shares my diagnoses also has an extraordinary imagination. Am I missing something?
Or is this just another example of something they got wrong? Does anyone else feel the same way?



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03 Jul 2020, 11:01 pm

I have an incredible imagination, too, so when I was first going about getting diagnosed, I doubted the diagnosis because of this. But it seems that females on the spectrum do tend to have an overactive imagination, and we tend to live in our own inner world, especially as children. The first time I read a description that made me realize that Aspies can be very imaginative was in Tony Atwood's The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome. His description about imaginative Aspies really described how I was/am. Like, from ages 8-11, I loved playing with my Barbies. But it was almost entirely solo play, and on the rare occasion when I would have another girl over to play, I didn't enjoy it as much as being by myself, and I wanted the other girl to play by my rules and my storylines. I also lined up my dolls on the steps in a very ritualistic way. So, it was these other things that showed the autism, not my strong imagination. Also, many females on the spectrum have a special interest in fiction. I did as a child. I had to have all the books in a series I liked, such as The Baby-Sitters Club. Again, it's more the intensity and all-encompassing nature of the interests more so than the interest itself.



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04 Jul 2020, 4:01 pm

vvvvv wrote:
Basically all the questionnaires and formal diagnostic criteria for both disorders describe a severe impairment to the brain's imagination. For example, not engaging in pretend play as a child,

Actually, not engaging in pretend play doesn't imply an impairment of the imagination (I don't know whether professionals in psychology see autism this way); a person with an intact imagination might simply prefer other types of play.

Considering that indulging in the imagination is a flight from reality, and considering that many autistic people are able to derive greater than typical pleasure from physical reality (such as spinning things and watching water, due to sensory sensitivity), I suspect that many autistic people simply don't feel the need to escape reality as much or as often as do people who lack such sensory pleasures.


Quote:
not understanding and/or enjoying fiction,

That might be the result of problems understanding language rather than an impairment of the imagination. Fiction tends to have challenging language patterns (metaphors, implicit information, etc.) because it includes so much more dialogue than other kinds of writing.

Also, most fiction heavily focuses on social interactions, and autistic people are less likely than non-autistic people to be interested in social interactions.

Quote:
unable to makeup images in your mind, etc.

I've never heard that one before. It seems odd given the "visual thinking" that is supposedly so common with autism.


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04 Jul 2020, 4:33 pm

Well, somebody has a very stunted imagination, or perception. Many top scientists and researchers are on the spectrum. I could save companies millions of dollars if I could just get them to do their sums to evaluate ideas I present.



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04 Jul 2020, 4:58 pm

I've always been interested in social interactions. But I like both fiction and non-fiction, although I wasn't really into reading when I was a kid, due to short attention span.

I think what they mean by "lack of imagination" is "lack of social imagination", but I think using the word "imagination" is rather misleading because when you see that word most people think of a child playing.


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04 Jul 2020, 5:06 pm

I can't say if I am on the spectrum or not. I do know I have imagination, and lots of it. I am always thinking!
What puzzles me is empathy. Somehow, I can't seem to seperate empathy from sympathy. Others have tried to explain... But somehow... I just don't know. I did some sort of onlie test where a part of it gave me an empathy result. See my signature. Somehow I don't know why that result is so low, as I don't think that I am lacking in that respect. I just can't work it all out!


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04 Jul 2020, 5:16 pm

Mountain Goat wrote:
I can't say if I am on the spectrum or not. I do know I have imagination, and lots of it. I am always thinking!
What puzzles me is empathy. Somehow, I can't seem to seperate empathy from sympathy. Others have tried to explain... But somehow... I just don't know. I did some sort of onlie test where a part of it gave me an empathy result. See my signature. Somehow I don't know why that result is so low, as I don't think that I am lacking in that respect. I just can't work it all out!


People on WP say that people get sympathy and empathy confused, but then give a definition of empathy that actually defines sympathy.
As I said in another thread, most Aspies tend to define empathy as "knowing what to say and do when someone is crying".

The way I see it, you often have to have empathy to have sympathy, if that makes sense. Say for example you sent a sympathy card to a grieving person, surely you have empathy in the first place because you're imagining how sad they must be feeling which made you buy them a sympathy card to let them know that you're thinking of them (empathy is supposed to mean imagining how someone is feeling).


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04 Jul 2020, 5:24 pm

Joe90 wrote:
As I said in another thread, most Aspies tend to define empathy as "knowing what to say and do when someone is crying."


Uhmmm.

I do have a problem with this as in I will stand back not knowing what to do! I tend to look to fetch another person in this situation to take over as I just don't know what to say and do in this situation.

If it was someone I am very close to as in a family member, then I can do it, but if it is a person who I am not that close to (Even if I know them) I tend to just stand there unable to know what to make a decision other then to find someone else to take over.


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04 Jul 2020, 5:35 pm

Mountain Goat wrote:
Joe90 wrote:
As I said in another thread, most Aspies tend to define empathy as "knowing what to say and do when someone is crying."


Uhmmm.

I do have a problem with this as in I will stand back not knowing what to do! I tend to look to fetch another person in this situation to take over as I just don't know what to say and do in this situation.

If it was someone I am very close to as in a family member, then I can do it, but if it is a person who I am not that close to (Even if I know them) I tend to just stand there unable to know what to make a decision other then to find someone else to take over.


That doesn't mean you lack empathy though. Believe me, I've been in a situation in workplaces where I've cried and people didn't know what to do. They just went to fetch the colleague I was closest to.
Also NTs have often stressed when writing a condolences text or sending a condolences card to someone (even if it's a relative), because they're unsure of what to write or how to word it.


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04 Jul 2020, 5:50 pm

Joe90 wrote:
Mountain Goat wrote:
Joe90 wrote:
As I said in another thread, most Aspies tend to define empathy as "knowing what to say and do when someone is crying."


Uhmmm.

I do have a problem with this as in I will stand back not knowing what to do! I tend to look to fetch another person in this situation to take over as I just don't know what to say and do in this situation.

If it was someone I am very close to as in a family member, then I can do it, but if it is a person who I am not that close to (Even if I know them) I tend to just stand there unable to know what to make a decision other then to find someone else to take over.


That doesn't mean you lack empathy though. Believe me, I've been in a situation in workplaces where I've cried and people didn't know what to do. They just went to fetch the colleague I was closest to.
Also NTs have often stressed when writing a condolences text or sending a condolences card to someone (even if it's a relative), because they're unsure of what to write or how to word it.


I know that I get upset if someone is hurt and I feel for them. It is more that I tend to want to hide! I would likely cry in a hidden corner myself!


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04 Jul 2020, 5:58 pm

starkid wrote:
vvvvv wrote:
Basically all the questionnaires and formal diagnostic criteria for both disorders describe a severe impairment to the brain's imagination. For example, not engaging in pretend play as a child,

Actually, not engaging in pretend play doesn't imply an impairment of the imagination (I don't know whether professionals in psychology see autism this way); a person with an intact imagination might simply prefer other types of play.

Considering that indulging in the imagination is a flight from reality, and considering that many autistic people are able to derive greater than typical pleasure from physical reality (such as spinning things and watching water, due to sensory sensitivity), I suspect that many autistic people simply don't feel the need to escape reality as much or as often as do people who lack such sensory pleasures.


Quote:
not understanding and/or enjoying fiction,

That might be the result of problems understanding language rather than an impairment of the imagination. Fiction tends to have challenging language patterns (metaphors, implicit information, etc.) because it includes so much more dialogue than other kinds of writing.

Also, most fiction heavily focuses on social interactions, and autistic people are less likely than non-autistic people to be interested in social interactions.

Quote:
unable to makeup images in your mind, etc.

I've never heard that one before. It seems odd given the "visual thinking" that is supposedly so common with autism.


All of the examples I pulled are almost direct quotes from Autism assessments or quotients. The idea behind them is that children with Autism are only capable of thinking logically and objectively which more or less also implies there's a lack of imagination. I personally think this system of thinking probably stems from the fact that all of these assessments were developed by researching exclusively boys who present very differently than girls. However, after reading one of Tony Attwoods books even he included some version into his criteria.

As for sensory things, yes I agree for the most part but would also like to point out that people with autism actually tend to have a higher rate of addiction than NT's. Escape is not about seeking pleasure, it's about escaping pain.

It's also common that girls with aspergers actually use their imaginations as an escape and just exist inside it. I know I did. I guess I'm just trying to figure out why professionals seem to think that our imaginations are so different from NTs.



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04 Jul 2020, 5:59 pm

vvvvv wrote:
starkid wrote:
vvvvv wrote:
Basically all the questionnaires and formal diagnostic criteria for both disorders describe a severe impairment to the brain's imagination. For example, not engaging in pretend play as a child,

Actually, not engaging in pretend play doesn't imply an impairment of the imagination (I don't know whether professionals in psychology see autism this way); a person with an intact imagination might simply prefer other types of play.

Considering that indulging in the imagination is a flight from reality, and considering that many autistic people are able to derive greater than typical pleasure from physical reality (such as spinning things and watching water, due to sensory sensitivity), I suspect that many autistic people simply don't feel the need to escape reality as much or as often as do people who lack such sensory pleasures.


Quote:
not understanding and/or enjoying fiction,

That might be the result of problems understanding language rather than an impairment of the imagination. Fiction tends to have challenging language patterns (metaphors, implicit information, etc.) because it includes so much more dialogue than other kinds of writing.

Also, most fiction heavily focuses on social interactions, and autistic people are less likely than non-autistic people to be interested in social interactions.

Quote:
unable to makeup images in your mind, etc.

I've never heard that one before. It seems odd given the "visual thinking" that is supposedly so common with autism.


All of the examples I pulled are almost direct quotes from Autism assessments or quotients. The idea behind them is that children with Autism are only capable of thinking logically and objectively which more or less also implies there's a lack of imagination. I personally think this system of thinking probably stems from the fact that all of these assessments were developed by researching exclusively boys who present very differently than girls. However, after reading one of Tony Attwoods books even he included some version into his criteria.

As for sensory things, yes I agree for the most part but would also like to point out that people with autism actually tend to have a higher rate of addiction than NT's. Escape is not about seeking pleasure, it's about escaping pain.

It's also common that girls with aspergers actually use their imaginations as an escape and just exist inside it. I know I did. I guess I'm just trying to figure out why professionals seem to think that our imaginations are so different from NTs.


Also just read the first post on here last and it said some of this already lol.



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04 Jul 2020, 6:17 pm

I have a very wild imagination. I always did have a wild imagination. It must be because I live inside my head. I've been living in my head more so than I usually do since the shutdown started. I have all these creative ideas for my arts & crafts floating around in my head. I also notice that half of my dreams have bright, groovy colours. That's probably why psychedelic ideas make up half of the things that I create.


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04 Jul 2020, 6:22 pm

CockneyRebel wrote:
I have a very wild imagination. I always did have a wild imagination. It must be because I live inside my head. I've been living in my head more so than I usually do since the shutdown started. I have all these creative ideas for my arts & crafts floating around in my head. I also notice that half of my dreams have bright, groovy colours. That's probably why psychedelic ideas make up half of the things that I create.



I can relate. I feel like I've definitely retreated inside my own world since quarantine. Sometimes I spend so long in there I lose track of time, like I forget what day it is or how much time has passed because I'm so intensely somewhere else. Does this ever happen to you?
(I also have insane dreams too).



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04 Jul 2020, 6:29 pm

I've never heard that a “severe impairment to the brain's imagination” is being a basic criteria. Some may have this, but most people on the spectrum probably not.
I am the same type of person as you describe. Especially the majority of females with AS are strongly gifted with imagination, creativeness and much more in this direction.

I personally had a huge aversion towards the description of Aspergers, especially when I was in your age.
When I was in an institution(specialized for people on the spectrum), I was arguing with the psychologist and social workers there about what autism actually is. All.the.time.
We all did.



I could not live with the fact, that it's called a "mental disability" or a "developmental disorder".
This is one of the reasons, I'm very cautious about of who I'm sharing this information with.
Meanwhile, I don't care as much anymore, cause I know exactly who I am and I developed many of my deficiencies.

Oh and the empathy thing...
That was one of the things I argued about the most. It bothered me over all these years so much, cause I was so convinced of having empathy.
Meanwhile I know I don't have it.
I can only have feelings or pity with someone, if I know the exact reason and if I can understand it .. and more or less related to my own experiences. We're not supposed to have "natural" empathy. The definition of it, describes as the process in the brain, of being affected by other people’s emotions through mirror neurons.
(I didn’t have time to check that information in english, so correct me if I’m wrong)



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04 Jul 2020, 7:20 pm

LunaticCentruroides wrote:
I've never heard that a “severe impairment to the brain's imagination” is being a basic criteria. Some may have this, but most people on the spectrum probably not.
I am the same type of person as you describe. Especially the majority of females with AS are strongly gifted with imagination, creativeness and much more in this direction.

I personally had a huge aversion towards the description of Aspergers, especially when I was in your age.
When I was in an institution(specialized for people on the spectrum), I was arguing with the psychologist and social workers there about what autism actually is. All.the.time.
We all did.



I could not live with the fact, that it's called a "mental disability" or a "developmental disorder".
This is one of the reasons, I'm very cautious about of who I'm sharing this information with.
Meanwhile, I don't care as much anymore, cause I know exactly who I am and I developed many of my deficiencies.

Oh and the empathy thing...
That was one of the things I argued about the most. It bothered me over all these years so much, cause I was so convinced of having empathy.
Meanwhile I know I don't have it.
I can only have feelings or pity with someone, if I know the exact reason and if I can understand it .. and more or less related to my own experiences. We're not supposed to have "natural" empathy. The definition of it, describes as the process in the brain, of being affected by other people’s emotions through mirror neurons.
(I didn’t have time to check that information in english, so correct me if I’m wrong)

A question I remember replying to on the online test which may have given me a poor empathy result was "You can tell what other people are thinking" (Yes or no). I had to put "No" because no one can read someone elses mind. Only God can.


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